Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba H64515133

Hamilton was an American manufacturer of watches first founded in 1892. The brand became renowned for its line of railroad pocket watches, military wristwatches, and marine chronometers until the 50s and 60s when it ventured into electric watches and watches with self-winding movements. In 1971, it became the third brand under Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) after Omega and Tissot, and in 1984 with SSIH's merger with Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG) it became part of what we now know as the Swatch Group. Under this parent company, the Hamilton brand forms part of its middle range offerings alongside brands Certina, Mido and Tissot.

Hamilton is quite unique in its marketing and positioning, banking on its extensive history and tradition as an American watchmaker, even though today, it is technically a Swiss brand. This reflects  on its design language with strong Art Deco cues and references to its extensive railroad, military, and marine heritage, and the watch subject of today's review is no exception.

The watch being reviewed in this post the Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba with reference H64515133. First introduced around 2007, in some markets it is referred to as the Hamilton Khaki King Scuba.

First, let's get one thing out of the way. The watch may have the word Scuba in its name, but it's not exactly what one may consider to be a true dive watch for several reasons. It is however, water resistant to 100m, so it can be used extensively in various water activities, including swimming, without much concern for water permeating the case. From a usage standpoint though, it seems more comfortable as a desk diver as the design aesthetic weighs more on the dressy, formal side, as opposed to presenting itself as a functional tool dive watch.

The stainless steel case has a 41mm case diameter (excluding crown), a 14mm thickness, and a 49mm lug-to-lug length. The case overall is not one may really call an oversize case, 41mm being a contemporary diameter shared with similar dive or dive-style watches such as the significantly more expensive Longines HydroConquest (see review here), Tag Heuer Aquaracer or Omega Seamaster 300m. The polished screw-down signed crown is nestled flush with brushed metal crown protectors, and it's relatively small making using it a bit of a chore as will be explained later. Lug width is a rather modest, but similarly contemporary, 20mm. The bracelet is a high-quality, precision machined but relatively unremarkable solid end-link, 3-link design fastened with a pin and collar system and actuated with a single fold-over clasp with a pinch-to-release push-button lock. Not much in the way of micro-adjustment though, with only two positions, so getting the perfect fit may be hit or miss. Surfaces are mostly brushed on the case and bracelet, giving it a subdued, less eye-catching appearance. At first glance, the watch on wrist projects a Rolex-like vibe, but any notions of this being a Submariner homage are quickly dispelled once eyes are laid on the dial.

The dial itself has to be the most polarizing design element of the entire watch, with some people liking it, and some hating it. I myself like it, and find its busy overall appearance to be part of its charm, though I can see why some people dislike it. The dial is black, with an outer border of minute and second hashmarks with Arabic numerals every five minutes. Moving further toward the center of the dial, this is followed by a border consisting of a matte ring (actually many minute concentric rings if you really look at it) with applied polished metal Arabic numeral hour indices. The 3 and 9 indices are larger than the other indices, and the 12 and 6 numerals are absent to give way to a full day indicator at 12 o'clock, and a date indicator at 6 o'clock, both white text on a black background, with polished metal frames and with red triangle highlights. Past the concentric ring border are 24 hour markings, a nod to Hamilton's heritage in making military watches. Printed text on the dial include the HAMILTON brand, KHAKI, AUTOMATIC and 330ft. The hour and minute hands are lumed slim, sword-type style ones with needle tips. Second hand is an arrow-styled polished metal affair with a rear circular counterweight and a lumed arrow tip. Lume overall is pretty sparse, with dots representing the hour indices, but nonetheless functional. Topping off the watch head is a 60-click unidirectional dive bezel with an aluminum insert and a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The bezel doesn't have a lume pip at the 12 o'clock position, nor does the crystal have much in the way of anti-reflective coating. The domed shape and the lack of AR coating not only makes the watch a bit difficult to read at a glance, but makes it a bit of a pain to photograph without reflections ruining the shot.

Powering the watch is a base ETA 2834-2, which is essentially a variant of the popular ETA 2824-2 with a full day indicator at the 12 o'clock position. As such, it shares the same major characteristics: 25-jewels, hacking and handwinding, automatic, beat rate of 28,800 bph, and power reserve of 38-40 hours. Winding, as with most other 2824-2s, can be quite stiff, and manipulating the crown, with particular emphasis on screwing it down, seems a bit more difficult than it needs to be given the polished knurling given to the crown, its relatively small size, and the inherent stiffness of the 2834-2 movement when being wound. The movement is visible through a see-through caseback, though finishing seems minimal, the only decoration of note being the signed rotor.

It is available here at most authorized dealers at around 500 USD, which seems about the average for what is typically paid for it, even among online resellers, and it represents pretty good value for what it is, a high-quality, contemporary-sized, 100m water resistant, entry-level Swiss watch.

Some photos:

Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba.

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